Let us change NCLB to OCAT today!

Bird Droppings July 19, 2013
Let us change NCLB to OCAT today!

I woke up like most other days and as you get older each day is a prize and for some reason sat at my computer pondering much longer than normal. I was looking at some comments and reviewing a post I had made the day before and thinking about what direction to go. I have two dissertations to review and I started reading William Ayers book, To Teach again and found it very similar to Dewey and other educators that I enjoy reading. As I looked at a blurb from GAE Georgia Association of Educators nearly three years ago denouncing the plan to go ahead with submission to Federal Department of Education grants stimulus award program since educators were not involved I was a bit concerned. Georgia went literally county by county on Race to the Top and is possibly still going to lose a portion related to evaluating teachers of the stimulus. I agree with that idea of involvement but the key component GAE was upset about is that it would require teachers to be more accountable and that accountability to be more thoroughly evaluated a point even though actively involved with GAE I disagree with we need to be accountable. (I am not saying through test scores)
Currently in Georgia teachers have either, one or up to three twenty minute walk through’ s by administrators as their evaluations and that is primarily a state produced checklist of things to be looked for. It impacts your yearly evaluation and whether or not you will be asked back the next year. But it does not impact pay. Teacher pay in Georgia is based on years of experience and degrees. The longer you teach the more you get paid and the higher your degree the more you get paid. If you are a coach now in our county counts equal with experience which while a supporter of sports Academics should be number one. A problem is that a teacher with thirty five or forty years that have not been good can pass all of their entire career walk through’ s and always have great annual evaluations and be one of highest paid in the school and have never been successful as a teacher. Their students may not be succeeding in life but that is not a reference point.

“Learning to teach takes time, energy, hard work. Learning to teach well requires even more: a serious and sustained engagement with the enterprise, an intense focus on the lives of children, a passionate regard for the future – that is, for the community our students will inherit and reinvent and for the world they are arching for.” Dr. William Ayers

I started an idea the other day which may seem redundant and silly. Instead of No Child Left Behind, let us approach education as One Child at a time. The more I thought about this idea and read does it not make more sense to approach each child as an individual rather than as a group or score or where they lie on the bell shaped curve. Granted it will take a bit more work to get to know each kid to know why and how each student works and understands but in the end I truly believe it will accomplish so much more and provide us with a future of thinkers instead of simply a society of consumers.

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.” John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor Gatto is another outspoken educator trying to alter a system that has been struggling within itself for so long. John Dewey had it right a hundred years ago and it is still considered progressive education. Give your main customer a say so in the education of themselves. Have a democratic classroom. Amazing how quickly people and teachers go quiet when that suggestion comes up. A favorite actor of mine during his lifetime came into acting when most folks are retiring. Chief Dan George began his career opposite Dustin Hoffman in 1970 at seventy one years of age in the movie, Little Big Man. One of my favorite films and his portrayal was that of outlaw Josey Wales side kick in the movie of the same name. He had a famous line as he told the story of the civilized tribes going to Washington and being told by the president to endeavor to persevere.

“But in the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The white man’s strange customs which I could not understand pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe.” Chief Dan George

Today in education and in life the struggle of the winners dictating the outcomes in whatever arena we put before us is still true. Whichever party is in control will pass legislation be it for people or against, with the people having little say. In education seldom are teachers involved in educational decisions or even in the thinking process involved. More importantly we never include the students and it is those students who we impose choices determined by people in almost another world that make the process of education so overwhelming. I have been writing for years about the loss of soul in education and this is not in reference to religion but to the individuality of the children. We strip away in the early grades inspiration and creativity and soon only the motions of learning are occurring. We are teaching to the test. Cramming the information needed in the space provided.

“Can we talk of integration until there is integration of hearts and minds? Unless you have this, you have only a physical prescience, and the walls between us are as high as the mountain range.” Chief Dan George

It is about an integration of hearts and minds that is needed in education. The walls are getting higher as I write and one day soon it may be insurmountable. I am hoping enough people choose to look differently at how we educate children and begin to realize we need to address the soul and each child as well. So sitting here pondering away I close as I have for thirteen years please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and let us give thanks for all we have namaste.

For my relations
Wa de (Skee)

Is doing what you love really work?

Bird Droppings July 18, 2013
Is doing what you love really work?

“To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?” Katharine Graham

After thirty plus days of rain yesterday a sunrise and no clouds or fog cover. That made for a great start to my day. I learn something every day as I wander about the internet and as I do find books I along the way. My life’s journey the past thirteen years has been one of excitement and constant challenges. Back when I closed my business of twenty three years and left publishing I first tried to stay in that industry but very few companies hire older folks in sales. I had been away from production far too long and computers had replaced most of what I had done when I started out doing graphics by hand. I had been talking with our new graphics teacher at school and literally the graphics industry is now almost totally on the screen in front of you. No more film negatives and paper paste ups. My world of nearly a quarter of a century was gone. Today I read a short article on the last of the Bo tribe to pass on. An elderly woman eighty five was the last of her tribe who genetically trace back over sixty five thousand years. This small group of hunter gatherers is gone and with them a culture, language, and history that cannot be replaced.
As I read each day and as I find quotes coming back to the starting quote above which is from my father’s book of quotes as he called it. He had saved over the years a three ring binder full of quotes that he had used or was pondering using. This quote caught my attention as it is how I see teaching for me. I love teaching and each day I am working with students I feel it matters maybe not today but one day it definitely will. As I looked up Katharine Graham I found that in her time she was one of the most powerful women in Washington. She was publisher of the Washington Post and it was with her permission the Watergate Scandal was reported and published in the Post. She was on the elite social list in Washington and personal friends with John and Jackie Kennedy, Jimmy and Roselyn Carter, Ronald and Nancy Reagan and she never had to sneak into White House functions which seem to be the fad these days.
As I looked further into her life and very interesting as her husband was for many years CEO and publisher of The Washington Post however it came to be known that he suffered from Manic Depression and after a series of nervous breakdowns and residential psychiatric treatment he took his own life in 1963. Upon her husband’s death Katharine took over the company and through careful planning built it into the company it is today. I found the following quote that hit me as I read further.

“We live in a dirty and dangerous world…There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.” Katherine Graham, speaking at the CIA Headquarters in 1988

As I watch our news and media sources banter about half-truths and often totally misleading stories I wonder as to, is their material even in our high speed world that needs to be withheld. So often in apocalyptic movies the president hesitates from telling everyone the earth is in line to be hit by a planet size asteroid and destroyed, or that the sunspots are flaring up and we will be crispy critters soon. Is it better to panic and get crushed in the milieu or simply not know and fry at some point in time? I come back to my original quote and for me it is finding that place in the circle of life that makes sense to you and that you enjoy doing. For me it is teaching. I recall when I was down about not finding work in the publishing world and my wife kept saying go back to teaching you really enjoy that. I was at the right place at the right time. Synchronicity as Karl Jung would say. A very progressive principal had just had a teacher quit due to a nervous breakdown and a job opening was there working with Emotionally Disturbed High School students. Next thing I knew I started back to teaching September 11, 2001.

“I teach because, for me, it’s the most effective and most enjoyable way to change the world. That’s the bottom line: We need to change this world, and this is the way I’m choosing to do it. Teaching allows me to work on hearts and minds, to guide people in becoming empowered, literate, engaged, creative, liberated human beings who want to join in this effort to change the world.” From the blog of Elena Aguilar School Improvement coach from Oakland, California, 2008

I have been over the past six years talking with former students and teachers of the Foxfire Program in Rabun County and in other Foxfire teaching settings around the country. I am finding that so many former students were influenced beyond the academics of the classes. They had each a different story but as I gather the words together each was influenced in a positive manner and each has used what they learned as the go about their journeys in life. I happened to find a site discussing a book based on the idea of why I teach. Each section of the book draws from teachers around the country and their feelings towards teaching.

“As a teacher, I want children to leave school with a social conscience, an appreciation for diversity and life, a thirst for learning, and an understanding of how knowledge can allow them to achieve their dreams. I also want them to leave the classroom with good memories because, since teachers are life-touchers, we want to be a part of children’s childhood memories. Other teachers might not admit this, but I will: Even if I might never get to hear it from their lips, I want my former students to recall their time in my class. I want them to remember something worthwhile, great or small that happened there. I hope that my students will remember my class not because it was perfect, but because of its unique flaws. Hopefully, they also will remember that I was a teacher who truly cared and strived to teach them. This is my definition of a life-toucher.” Kerri Warfield, Visual Arts teacher, Westfield, MA

As an active teacher I hope in my own way I am influencing kids positively so they can better managed the journey ahead. Perhaps my own rationale that it is equally about that life journey as well as academics learned along the way is in contrast to the current teach to the test idea that is driving education now. Sadly it is a long time later that the daily life touches as Kerri Warfield states are seen. It might be ten years after you have a student and you see on Facebook a father holding a little boy or girl and discussing how much something meant to him back in high school. That something just happened to be a small gesture you made giving a book or a word of advice in time of need. So many directions to go today and as I wind down, as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks for what we do have namaste.

For all my relations
Wa de (Skee)

How do we know on a cloudy day if the moon is setting or the sun is rising?

Bird Droppings July 16, 2013
How do we know on a cloudy day if the moon is setting or the sun is rising?

I left the house relatively early to get gas for my wives car and since staying at home today to work on graduate school papers a bottle of grapefruit cranberry juice. My days have been hectic lately and almost blurry running from one to the next and almost as if in slow motion yet going by faster than I would like. I have much to do and places to go and things to see just don’t know which direction to start in. As I left the house several rabbits and birds either ran or flew across my path as I drove down the dirt road beside our house. As I drove a bit further down the road I noticed the clouds were still obscuring the view of the sky as the sun came up and what might have been the moon going down in the west. No sooner do I try and notice the moon and the sun is coming up. How can this be both events all at once? This was even better than an eclipse. As I took a turn on a back country road a mother opossum began peering at the roadway looking about ready to jump in front of a car. I noticed she was carrying some babies on her back and hopefully she avoided traffic although it was early and I did not see any cars.
Yesterday I stopped by my mother’s house to check in and see what she would like for dinner today. As we talked I remembered another trip when she started pulling out books she wanted to know if I wanted. As she pulled a few books I realized I do not turn down books ever, well almost never and started piling them up. One in particular caught my attention. Touch the Earth by T.C. McLuhan. As I read and recalled from earlier in the day yesterday several postings about changes in our world it started to make sense more so than it had is some time.

‎ “All living creatures and all plants derive their life from the sun. If it were not for the sun, there would be darkness and nothing could grow – the earth would be without life. Yet the sun must have the help of the earth. If the sun alone were to act upon animals and plants, the heat would be so great they would die, but there are clouds that bring rain, and the action of the sun and earth together supply the moisture that is needed for life.” Okute, Teton Sioux, 1911

As it turns out the book was given to my father in 1983 by a friend of his who signed the book as well. T. C. McLuhan edited the stories and gathered them from various Native American warriors, chiefs, holy men and orators. The photos are all from Edward S. Curtis famous black and white photographer and chronicler of the Wild West. T. C. McLuhan is a New York videographer and author with numerous projects to her credit. The Shadow Catcher is a 1975 film based on Edward S. Curtis and his travels from 1893 through 1930 recording on film and tapes the sights and sounds of Native peoples across the country. His concern was the old ways would soon be gone and his effort has recorded many events and happenings found nowhere else in media. T.C. McLuhan’s father is a bit better known in literary circles, Marshall McLuhan was named Patron Saint of Wired magazine in 1991. T. C. McLuhan produced and directed the documentary “The Frontier Gandhi” in 2008. Looking at a book on Native Peoples culture I have found an author and now several films I want to pursue.

“I wonder if the ground has anything to say? I wonder if the ground is listening to what is said? I wonder if the ground would come alive and what is on it? Though I hear what the ground says. The ground says the Great Spirit place me here.” Young Chief, Cayuse, 1855 at an Indian Council in the Valley of the Walla Wall

Yesterday I responded to a blog about how rapidly things were changing and how food stuffs with the dying off of honey bees will be impacted. Over the last few years I can honestly say I have seen fewer and fewer honey bees. I Plant numerous flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds. But each year there are fewer honey bees. This year I have seen maybe a dozen which is better than last year. I wander my gardens most every day during summer looking for photo opportunities and this year no pictures of honey bees so far though my oldest son says he has seen some. As I read through this manuscript and thought about the title touch the earth I thought to the recorded writings based on many of the great Native Peoples leaders both on the battle field and spiritually. All reflect the contact with the earth as a key to their existence. Whether it be sitting on the ground instead of on a chair or standing in moccasins close to the ground instead of thick soled boots or shoes the Native Peoples way is to be one with the earth. I tagged a t-shirt photo I took a year or so ago with the world and some feathers and surrounding the image the words, “This we know all things are connected.”

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, and the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk residing in France who was ejected from his country of Viet Nam for being against the Viet Nam war in the late sixties and early seventies. “All is a miracle” is such a simple statement yet it is what this life is about if we so choose. The miracle is in our own seeing and believing. What a glorious day while cloudy it will still be a great day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to all give thanks namaste.

For all my relations
Wa de (Skee)

Is not every day a good day?

Bird Droppings July 15, 2013
Is not every day a good day?

Recently I had the great privilege of spending some time with three friends. People I have known for many years. Just a few weekends back I drove nearly 800 miles on various assundery excursions. There were several trips to the North Georgia Mountains for graduate classes, visiting the Foxfire property and along with this a trip or to Athens Georgia. Much of this time I was alone driving and most of that time listening to a CD by the Foxfire Boys, a blue grass band out of Clayton Georgia. .
In my travels many things pass through my mind, ideas for my dissertation and my graduate studies, thoughts back to my meetings with my friends. But in the midst of this all was a passing thought my wife mentioned as I was sitting reading an email from one of my friends. She told me we all have kind hearts. I thought back to conversations we were having as friends a few days back that would have provided her with this insight.

‎”I tell my students that teaching is a lifelong moral quest. You never have it exactly right, and you keep trying to get better at it. You keep learning from your students and what you they’re going through, how you can do things better.” Dr. Nel Noddings, interview with Sara Day Hatton, Teaching By Heart: The Foxfire Interviews

An idea crossed my mind as I was driving. The medicine circle composed of four points of the compass. The points are as on most manmade compasses yet far more in terms of meaning in the medicine circle. The North, symbolizing earth and wisdom, The South, symbolized by fire and passion, The West, symbolized by water and emotions, and the East, symbolized by air and flight are what make the medicine circle meanings. I thought of four friends drawn together yet apart. Each knows of the other and by chance I had words with each recently. Each of my friends had passion in their lives. There was a passion I could see and feel for their work, family and those around them. I even at one point was sitting jotting notes to myself as to who fit each of the points. Who was the north or south, east or west of this medicine wheel? I was reminded of the medicine wheel a few weeks back as a friend used in a morning moment with a group of teachers in the mountains of North Georgia and as I sat by my own medicine circle in a back corner of the yard as the sun came up today and wisps of smoke from some sage, sweet grass, ursa, and willow bark dissipated in the breeze.
So often my train of thought then wanders off and I find myself postulating over other ideas and pondering this or that. I found my way to a book store yesterday. Somehow I can do that probably in my sleep. Someday I might like to have my ashes sprinkled through a Barnes and Noble even though they will get swept up by the nightly cleaning crew or maybe haunt a book store in the afterlife. I went looking as I do to favorite sections only to find they were all shifted about. I finally found the Education rows of books and a bit later the Native American shelves.
As I looked always seemingly drawn to known authors I found a title that intrigued me. The book was Every day is a good day, by Wilma Mankiller. I had not seen this book in all of my travels and searching’s at Borders, Barnes and Noble and many other stores and purchased on line several years ago. It consists of dialogue between nineteen indigenous women on various topics. The book has many powerful words from these women. I borrowed today from the foreword written by Native American author Vine Deloria.

“The old Indian war cry, it’s a good day to die, bespoke of the courage and fearlessness of men in battle and indicated that life was not worth living if one approached it with too much caution. Freedom demanded the willingness to sacrifice everything to ensure personal integrity. But what of the long periods between wars and crises? What about the daily lives we seek to fill with substance?” Vine Deloria

The late Wilma Mankiller nationally known as former chief of the Cherokee Nation and author, teacher, lecturer and advocate for Native American affairs in her book proceeds to explore this through the thoughts and understandings of nineteen indigenous women from all walks of life. In a recent class we discussed the concept of multitasking and how women have been multitasking for thousands of years while men focus on generally one thing at a time. I look at women running for vice president, state governors, congress, Senate and our current Secretary of state in our own country. Wilma Mankiller was chief of the Cherokee nation for ten years until her health took the best of her.

“A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women on the ground. Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors or strong its weapons.” Cheyenne proverb

My thinking has wandered today from four friends and an observation by my wife to the multitasking ability of women. Yet intertwined is a common thread a piece of the tapestry of our lives. My wife saw a common element in each of us as we talked and joked and retold old tales of childhood. Perhaps we are each part of the medicine wheel of life. A thought crossed my mind as each of my friends in different places we are each leading separate yet connected lives. I thought back to Wilma’s book title and how I was drawn to that Every day is a good day. I thought to multitasking and how so often we take for granted those who truly do keep the world in line and in order. I thought of my wife who so often is the guiding force in our family and always ready to hug someone needing hugging.
Every day is a good day when we accept the premise that we are integral to that day and we each are only a portion of the day and so many more too are there interconnected and interwoven. I do think it is when we get focused too into our own that we lose sight of the good day. I do wish we each could hold all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and to give thanks for all namaste.
For my relations
Wa de (Skee)

High Stakes Testing and or inspection does it work?

Bird Droppings July 14, 2013
High Stakes Testing and or inspection does it work?

About five years back we spent several months getting ready for a peer review, actually it is called a GAPPS Review. About the same time you throw in the Georgia High School Graduation retests and PSAT, and End of Course tests coming up and literally daily there is or was an ongoing teaching to the test and or inspection of one sort or another in education. We gear ourselves so diligently in getting ready for the tests maybe even more so than for the tests and we lose sight of what education is really about, a quality education.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Bill Gates

When I first saw this quote it made me wonder has Bill Gates lost his marbles. But look deeper in to what Gates is really saying. If a company has no unhappy customers they are doing everything right essentially. Basic Phillip Crosby quality control is to be sure customers are satisfied. Another big gun the late Steve Jobs had an issue with the iPhone 4 seems the phone when held had a hard time getting a signal I actually think they had a left hand designer who put antennae on side a right handed person would hold phone and thereby canceling signal. Solution a free case to all iPhone 4 purchasers which at last count was about six million.

“Quality is meeting or exceeding the expectations of your customers” Phillip Crosby

If we expand that customer base further to all people who we come in contact with then that idea, a source of learning is magnified many times over and if we now also have that group of everyone having expectations of us we quickly become either good or evil depending on how we are viewed by the world. That could be a stretch but in reality this is how we do see things. What if we could apply this to education?

“Learning is not compulsory …. Neither is survival.” W. Edwards Deming

Leading into my thoughts a fellow from years gone by, Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Deming was one of the greatest industrial management consultants and thinkers of the 20th century. He provided the insight that Japanese industrialists built empires on after World War II. He summarized in fourteen points which I have included because there are some good thoughts regardless of whether you are in industry, teaching and or simply a parent. I can recall my father borrowing these from Deming as he discussed a good and a quality Safety Program.

The 14 points for management in industry, education and government Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
1. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place. (Maybe we in education need to read this one several times and then again)
2. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
3. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
4. Institute training on the job.
5. Institute leadership (see Point 12 and Ch. 8). The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers. (Leadership what a powerful word yet in education you generally get management)
6. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company (oh if we could eliminate fear among teachers what a workplace we could have and who knows maybe even empower teachers)
7. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
8. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force. (I wonder when we will ever see this in education as we constantly want to compare the US to Japan to China to each other to ethnic groups our educational system is built on comparison and the great quality expert is saying no way)
9. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
10. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership. (See my response on 8)
11. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
12. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.
13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.
Reference: http://www.deming.org/ – The W. Edwards Deming’s Institute

Interesting as I looked through the list and see applications for myself in teaching. There are very near parallel to Foxfire Core Practices and several other teaching references. For example point one “Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.” Not only did Deming see this as a problem, but as Sen. Paul Wellstone states.

“Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying they will not tolerate failure. But it is a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity.” Sen. Paul Wellstone

This was being seen in industry as an issue by Deming. If an inspector has to check for errors and or faulty pieces of an item what was interesting in his research done on inspectors the number of pieces faulty was in direct correlation to total number of pieces actually produced. In effect inspectors knew they had to find x number of pieces and that is how many they found. Many faulty pieces went through regardless of inspection if total was met.
Deming is saying build a quality piece first so there will be no faulty pieces. Teach appropriately and you will not have to test.

”A plague has been sweeping through American schools, wiping out the most innovative instruction and beating down some of the best teachers and administrators. Ironically, that plague has been unleashed in the name of improving schools. Invoking such terms as “tougher standards,” “accountability,” and “raising the bar,” people with little understanding of how children learn have imposed a heavy-handed, top-down, test-driven version of school reform that is lowering the quality of education in this country.” Alfie Kohn

Sitting here this morning after spending much of yesterday with my granddaughter I am waiting to relax and sit quietly for a few minutes then get into some writing for grad school. Each year we seem to add two or three more weeks of intensive testing in our high school officially called the End of course Tests, EOCT and Georgia High School Graduation Tests, GHSGT. There is not much pressure on High School Students at all to succeed in Georgia that is an understatement. In bold letters every student knows if you do not pass this test you will not pass this course and or graduate. I hear that there is actually a rumor, that this statement is being tattooed on students before tests, pass or leave, but I found out it is false. In industry, in politics, in homes and in schools we so often use that mentality to accomplish the ends with our children, employees and even friends.
As I look at Bill Gates quote again and think of students taking standardized tests you would think someone would have caught on somewhere. Maybe we need to get tested more? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and do look over Deming’s fourteen points there are a few good ideas and be sure to always give thanks Namaste
For all of my relations
Wa de (Skee)

Can I teach myself or am I even allowed?

Bird Droppings July 13, 2013
Can I teach myself or am I even allowed?

“There is then, nothing final about a logical rendering of experience. Its value is not contained in itself; its significance is that of standpoint, outlook, and method. It intervenes between the more casual, tentative, and roundabout experiences of the past, and more controlled and orderly experiences of the future.” John Dewey, The Child and Curriculum

I have been reading the past few days books by Sousa, Tomlinson, Creswell, Merriam, Gatto, Eisner and Dewey and one thing seems to continually pop up and that is the experience a child brings with them to the learning process is critical. All of the days before coming to school, family stuff, community stuff, cultural stuff and kid’s stuff that accumulate as a child grow. Far too often we expert teachers forget that is even there just in front of us. There is an entire world of experiences that each student has been through and could build upon and expand.

“Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” John W. Gardner

A variation on the ancient Chinese proverb “you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day or you can teach a man to fish and feed him for life” John W. Gardner was the founder of Common Cause and instrumental in founding of Medicare and many educational and social reforms including the Civil Rights act. Interesting how today the political rhetoric is almost the opposite. In education today with mandated standardized testing driving the curriculum and corporate America taking over education we seem to be wanting to create a world of consumers and workers and fewer inventors and creators.

“The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursing his own education. This will not be a widely shared pursuit until we get over our odd conviction that education is what goes on in school buildings and nowhere else.” John W. Gardner

Working within the field of education I have seen what trying to legislate education can do, often I find myself saying the term “No child left behind” should read “how many can we leave behind”. We do this as we systematically push students into certain categories and then out the door in order to meet and exceed standards artificially imposed across the board. We should continuously be striving to “teach them to grow their own plants” as Gardner states and not be measuring cut flowers. But testing of such issues as to how well can a student grow a flower, well it takes a growing season and is not done in a two hour session. One of the most effect methods of measuring a child educational growth is a portfolio in which bits and pieces are gather across a span of time showing where they started and where they are. Amazingly enough there are a few schools using portfolios of students work to assess their students, probably because it takes a whole growing season of work.

“Considerable research has demonstrated the importance of making sure students are actively involved in designing their own learning, invited to play a role in formulating questions, creating projects, and so on.” Alfie Kohn

I was thinking how interesting as we move into a new world of education or is it an old world. During the past school year’s daily reflection time as my students did their journaling I asked them to write about what they would do different in educating themselves and no school was the number one answer. I asked for clarification since no school would put me out of a job. “How am I to learn how to work on Honda motors if I never see one” or “I want to work on my parents farm and raise cattle I do not need to know that 3X+3 = 9”. I was somewhat set back we design curriculum with what we as educators and as legislators decide students need to know. Seldom do we ever ask students. Last night on a late night talk show the discussion on education came up and what I found interesting was there are jobs three million unfilled jobs that people either do not want or feel they are too well qualified. There are large equipment operator jobs through Caterpillar Company that eventually after training can be six figures and no one is applying. An old logo from high schools in the 1970’s was shown “Work smart not hard”. No wonder we cannot get out of this all kids go to college mentality in state and federal legislators minds.

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice number one, 2009

I was discussing equations the other day back during school with a student who was having a hard time in math, 10X – 3X = 20 + 1. I easily offered 7X = 21 and or X = 3. I was wrong I was told X = 1.9 and I was shown rules for this process and why and how. I talked to this student’s teacher later in the day actually to verify my own meager math skills. It seems that this student learned some simple algebraic rules but cannot always put them in the correct place. It was about cutting flowers versus growing flowers. (10X +3X) (-3x +3X) = (20-1) (+1 – 1) and or to the effect 13X = 19 and the confusion goes on. In effect the student had been taught to balance an equation and had rules but could not differentiate which equations needed balancing. It was sort of like growing flowers and continually pulling out the flowers and letting the weeds grow because you know flowers have leaves and weeds have stems. How do we reach students? How do we change from “no school” to truly getting input from students, faculty and parents about needs of the community, state and nation as to educating that student?

“Students need to be engaged in the process of learning in ways that connect with their experience. Students learn better when they know the teacher cares about them.” Robert Fried

Over the past couple years I have had the privilege to work with a young lady who graduated or nearly graduated eight years ago two credits shy of actual graduation. She has been working since to take the two courses she had failed twice each in high school, Algebra I and Physical Science. I had been proctoring her tests and helping set up computer learning for her. She owns an Ice cream franchise and really doesn’t need to graduate from high school, but she did.
Nearly 100 years ago John Dewey offered up students need to build from experience. Numerous scholars and researchers have shown the effectiveness of constructivism in education and the effectiveness of students knowing that their teachers care and or are passionate about what they do it is not just a job with a pay check.

“Schools were places where the students did what they were told to do. They answered questions–they did not ask them; their special (or their not so special) interests and curiosities were to be kept private; they were not to take time away from the predetermined curriculum. In short, the culture of the classroom lacked almost all of the hallmarks of productive learning. And each level of the educational hierarchy viewed the level below it as teachers viewed students.” Dr. Seymour Sarason

The possibility to teach growing flowers is there if we decide to do that. It is making the change from cutting flowers to growing flowers that has to occur within a community and within schools for it to succeed. Today let us all as parents and teachers try and begin to teach students how to grow flowers. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks Namaste

For all my relations
Wa de (Skee).

Do children deserve more?

Bird Droppings July 12, 2013
Do children deserve more?

I drove up to North Georgia numerous times the past few weeks, my daughter in law gave birth to a great big grandson and a three hour session of oral surgery all helped throw my routine out the window the past week. So adding to this hectic schedule during three of the past weeks Piedmont College held Foxfire training courses on the Museum property in Mountain City Georgia which I tried to attend sessions as much as possible. I was allowed into the doctorate program at Piedmont to finish up my graduate work and started attending classes two weeks ago in Demorest. A couple side trips dropping off a DVD to Foxfire coordinator with Piedmont College Dr. Hilton Smith and to picking up large quantities of rats and mice for my oldest son’s hobby and part time job of breeding and raising ball pythons and numerous other critters my trips have been many. It just so happens the largest mice and rat breeder in the Southeast is thirty minutes from Piedmont College. On one of the journey’s I sat in backseat reading some research material which happened to be John Taylor Gatto’s book, Weapons of Mass Instruction.

“Curiosity has no important place in my work, only conformity.” John Taylor Gatto

There are aspects of Gatto’s writing I totally agree with and many opinions that I would differ with him substantially on. I do believe in the public school system. Gatto has come out in favor of un-schooling or homeschooling as alternatives to public school to a large degree. However the stripping away of individuality and creativity we both seem to find such a crucial piece that is occurring in today’s schools we both can argue is wrong. Having been taught in my graduate program in a rather liberal setting perhaps has me jaded towards a more progressive traditional educational philosophy and methodology. As I think back on my own training in teaching it was not far off of what I do today. Students learn best by doing versus being told. I learned that in a Red Cross course in 1967 teaching swimming. I even remember the example of tying a square knot. Few could tie the knot after being told how several times even in detail. But being shown physically not only did everyone learn to tie a square knot but the next day they also remembered and at the end of the course still knew how.

“I don’t think we’ll get rid of schools any time soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we’re going to change what’s rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the school institution “schools” very well, though it does not “educate”; that’s inherent in the design of the thing. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent. It’s just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.” John Taylor Gatto

Gatto as he illustrates the historical demise of education in the process of schooling children to be consumers, points to several issues that I have raised in recent writings. A corporate industrial influence on education dating back to early 1900’s which impacts the process of the education and its end result being the major issue then and now.

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.” John Taylor Gatto

In my some of my graduate school writings I addressed the loss of soul in education. That is the stripping away of individuality that has been going on for so many years. In many schools it has only intensified by the teach to the test mentality that is driving education today across the US. Not all succumb to the numbing and as Gatto says “Dumbing Down of students”, there are teachers who provide opportunity for critical thinking and can keep some of the students from falling through the educational cracks. But with many systems relying on test scores to evaluate teachers and placing emphasis due to state and federal mandates teachers are in fear of their jobs and chose to teach what is on the test, period. Yet even so in some states such as in Texas where legislation actually was proposed to do away with critical thinking skills. Where do these legislative people come from?

John Gatto was New York State teacher of the year in 1990 and in his speech at the award ceremony offered these eight points:

1. The children I teach are indifferent to the adult world. This defies the experience of thousands of years. A close study of what big people were up to was always the most exciting occupation of youth, but nobody wants to grow up these days and who can blame them? Toys are us.
2. The children I teach have almost no curiosity and what they do have is transitory; they cannot concentrate for very long, even on things they choose to do. Can you see a connection between the bells ringing again and again to change classes and this phenomenon of evanescent attention?
3. The children I teach have a poor sense of the future, of how tomorrow is inextricably linked to today. As I said before, they have a continuous present; the exact moment they are at is the boundary of their consciousness.
4. The children I teach are ahistorical, they have no sense of how past has predestined their own present, limiting their choices, shaping their values and lives.
5. The children I teach are cruel to each other, they lack compassion for misfortune, they laugh at weakness, and they have contempt for people whose need for help shows too plainly.
6. The children I teach are uneasy with intimacy or candor. My guess is that they are like many adopted people I’ve known in this respect – they cannot deal with genuine intimacy because of a lifelong habit of preserving a secret inner self inside a larger outer personality made up of artificial bits and pieces of behavior borrowed from television or acquired to manipulate teachers. Because they are not who they represent themselves to be the disguise wears thin in the presence of intimacy so intimate relationships have to be avoided.
7. The children I teach are materialistic, following the lead of schoolteachers who materialistically “grade” everything – and television mentors who offer everything in the world for free.
8. The children I teach are dependent, passive, and timid in the presence of new challenges. This is frequently masked by surface bravado, or by anger or aggressiveness but underneath is a vacuum without fortitude.

Perhaps where I go with this is there are solutions and alternatives to what has been happening in education. It will take effort and it will take people who are concerned not politicians looking for votes and saying the right thing at the right time. But honest truthful people who have a passion for education and learning and a truth concern for children. I skip back to my early days of education and Dr. Laura Nolte who wrote a simple passage about children based on they learn what they live. In our fast pace literally instantaneous society there is so little time for kids to be kids. I will go to John Dewey and his idea of reflection. There is no time to reflect during the day none what so ever.

“Out of the 168 hours in each week, my children sleep 56. That leaves them 112 hours a week out of which to fashion a self. My children watch 55 hours of television a week according to recent reports. That leaves them 57 hours a week in which to grow up. My children attend school 30 hours a week, use about 6 hours getting ready, going and coming home, and spend an average of 7 hours a week in homework – a total of 45 hours. During that time, they are under constant surveillance, have no private time or private space, and are disciplined if they try to assert individuality in the use of time or space. That leaves 12 hours a week out of which to create a unique consciousness. Of course, my kids eat, and that takes some time – not much, because they’ve lost the tradition of family dining, but if we allot 3 hours a week to evening meals, we arrive at a net amount of private time for each child of 9 hours.” John Taylor Gatto, 1990 addressing the Awards ceremony

Over the years I would use the term the sixteen hour syndrome as I addressed our eight hour or six hours depending on the school of teaching time and that time away from school. One thing Gatto did not address in this book but he has in other essays and writings, is the societal changes that have occurred. A reliance on drugs, both legal and illegal, amazing our nation drives the world narcotics market. If we could stop the dependence on drugs it could be significantly different. I have heard many times and seen many times in records where teachers and parents want their kids on medications. Generally these meds are not to be healthier but to calm them down. Recently in a discussion about ADHD I was being told about a child who was diagnosed as ADHD and was fine when on meds he otherwise bouncing off the ceilings. I asked a question I borrow from a good friend Dr. James Sutton clinical child psychologist, does he play video games and for long periods. Yes was the answer and then how is this child ADHD if he can focus for extended time on something he likes. Maybe boredom was a better diagnosis in relationship to school.

“Highly centralized mass production economies can’t function well without colonizing individual minds and converting them to a mass mind. The conversion works best if started early, in the lower grades of elementary school, in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten.” John Taylor Gatto, Weapons of Mass Instruction

Other societal issues marriage has become disposable. It is simply a commodity to use and then move on from if needed. I watch kids who have been through numerous divorces and step parents and other than Christmas which can be fun with fifteen step brothers and sisters and four houses to visit instead of two. Although I recall a kid I had ten years ago was living with his third step mother since his mother and father both were in jail. It is not just school but a society that had been created through the design and methodology of our mass production system. Yesterday evening I made a comment about opinion and elections. A word or thought in today’s media driven world can change opinion instantly. There is no thinking or effort to try and reflect it is simply to go a differing direction on a word or thought. Let me go back to that nine hours a week of time to look inside of ourselves that Gatto illustrated. If we can expand that time and put forth a concerted effort to reflect to think to peer inside and search for our soul it is just maybe possible we could turn this mess around. I know personally the days I can meditate for me are more meaningful and creative days. I cherish those moments reflecting and pondering as I say and will grasp them when I can. So I have wandered today a bit maybe overkill on a book but still as I close keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

For all my relations
Wa de (Skee)

I wonder if you can get moon burn?

Bird Droppings July 9, 2013
I wonder if you can get moon burn?

It was a crazy evening at the Bird Nest as we gathered to bring a new grand baby into the fold. My daughter’s in-laws family had come up from Middle Georgia. I was late getting in from class in Demorest driving back from Piedmont College. My oldest son had class and was practicing his capstone presentation at the Piedmont Campus in Athens. Pat my wife had patients till after 6:00 last night with the lead physician at her clinic on vacation she had a long day. Supper was simple fair spaghetti and after cleaning my granddaughter off from her favorite meal we watched a bit of Disney.
Last night just before heading in, I walked out on the back porch watching the hummingbirds get in a few more sips of nectar from the feeders and listening to tree frogs begin their nightly chorus. As I stood outside I noticed high in the sky to the west a smiling moon in among the breaks in the storm clouds and knew it was going down and would be gone later or in the morning when I got up. But it is nice to end the day with a smile. After a literally every night we have had a storm and rain but last night the back yard was glowing from the smiling light. I know from my science classes that it is simply reflection from the sun, but it is hard to talk of the moon without attributing to it, its own glow. Sort of like a student and a good teacher relationship. We may never see the teacher only the reflection of the knowledge and wisdom passed on through that student. I find myself wandering lonely in a pedagogical desert at times walking through hallways that seem deserted with students out for the summer when I go the high school.

“Now nearly all learning space is occupied by an elaborate testing apparatus that measures the student’s progress in ingesting externally imposed curriculae and more insidiously provides a sorting device to reproduce the inequalities inherent in the capitalistic market system. …In turn the teacher becomes the instrument of approved intellectual and moral culture, charged with the task of expunging destructive impulses and fueling the empty mental tank. The student must be permitted no autonomy lest the evil spirits that lurk in everyday life regain lost ground.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom, Ethics, Democracy and civic courage

Many great thinkers and writers attest to democracy and education going hand in hand. John Dewey wrote extensively about this as does Paulo Freire, and even John F. Kennedy, I borrowed from him in recent days, Thomas Jefferson and so many more believed democracy and education are intertwined. But as I read Freire’s statement above I wonder if what we call democracy is truly that. How can a society manipulating its students into various interconnections of the market place albeit into consumers and or workers truly be a democracy? Watching the billboard ads of current primary candidates saddens me to even think we can call this a democracy. On July fourth in our local parade a politician pastor who advertised in his last campaign against the President using a hammer and sickle of the Old Russian Communist party on a billboard comparing or more so implying our current president was a communist and this particular candidate was conversely a true American. I did not shake his hand as he passed and his views on education would set us back further than we are.
Many historical writers of education address the incorporation of higher education. I went to get a drink yesterday while I was at the school from a vending machine and only certain ones were on and able to be purchased. So I could only get specific drinks and specific brands. In our school it happens to be all Coca-Cola products. I thought it interesting as we have the Cola wars even in schools. It has struck education and yesterday as I walked through the gym I glanced at our score board and the huge Coke logo. It was free I have heard. We have a regular Coke man who many kids know by name and is in the building daily.
Each week we buy over ten thousand dollars in Coke products. Essentially everyday he provides sustenance for nearly two thousand students and faculty. It is interesting as you add and subtract figures, two drinks and one snack per day per student and teacher equates to over one million dollars in sales per school year and three high schools in our county and over a hundred counties in Georgia. No wonder corporations want input in education.
While working on a graduate assignment this morning I was noticing how what seemingly doesn’t happen and is not supposed to happen does, students tend to group by ability. Several times I have noticed lower functioning students and students who have failed a class particularly math and science will be grouped together and often with a younger less experienced teacher in the classroom. This happens all over not just in our school. Obviously honors and advanced placement classes are taught by better teachers with experience and in most cases they have very specific certification, “gifted” qualifications. A simple observation, the best teachers are often in the best classes with the best students and or in classes of special education special needs students sort of a paradox.
I have been watching again the advertising promos for a film coming back on cable again, The Ron Clark Story. Ron Clark was the 2000 Disney Teacher of the year has been featured on Oprah and interviewed by Katie Couric. In his style of teaching he was providing context to the content which is a major theme in his teaching and now with the Ron Clark Academy in inner city Atlanta he is taking his philosophy to a new standard.

“Before going to the bowling alley, Mr. Clark visited himself, measured the lanes and used the dimensions on worksheets. He also used the bowling pins to teach fractions, and took the prices from the snack shop and used them in math class. On every trip, whether it is up the street or across the globe, the Ron Clark Academy will make every moment a learning opportunity because as Mr. Clark has learned children must have a connection to something before they will appreciate it. After preparing our students so thoroughly for each trip, they will truly get the most out of the experience and internalize all they have learned.” The Ron Clark Academy, Curriculum, http://www.ronclarkacademy.com

Here is a teacher in our time stepping up and using ideas from early 1900’s. John Dewey proposed such things many years ago in his writing and educational views.

“Only in education, never in the life of farmer, sailor, merchant, physician, or laboratory experimenter, does knowledge mean primarily a store of information aloof from doing.” John Dewey

However it requires a teacher to go to the bowling alley and go to a store and go to and does work and additionally out of the school stuff and more work in school and doing word walls and doing stuff and it goes on and on. Much more than getting the teacher’s manual off the shelf and using the packaged transparencies and materials provided by McGraw Hill, Pearson or whatever publisher is approved by state and federal guidelines and conveniently has aligned their text with your state curriculum and or had advisors on your state committee for curriculum. It is no coincidence textbooks are expensive and a big business, every school buys textbooks. College texts are notorious about price but what if priced at fifty dollars each and many especially in elementary reading classes are disposable it amounts to millions of dollars a year in each school district. Last year over $188,000,000.00 was spent in California to purchase books in order to keep up with curriculum standards. So if you multiply by fifty states and many more countries and we are talking many billions of dollars at stake.

“We naturally associate democracy, to be sure, with freedom of action, but freedom of action without freed capacity of thought behind it is only chaos.” John Dewey

Freire and so many others are fearful of education being too incorporated and losing the freedom of thought which in reality is what we lose according to Dewey and then our democracy. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

For all my relations
Wa de (Skee)

Can we be about healing?

Bird Droppings July 8, 2013
Can we be about healing?

“People cannot know how sacred power, or medicine truly works, bit almost every Native American knows something of its ways. Often seen as a mysterious force that is fluid, transmissible and important malleable, sacred power can be manipulated by those who possess it – either for good or for worse” Larry Zimmerman, The Sacred Wisdom or the American Indians

It is so easy to get up knowing my children and grandchildren are safe and walk out into a morning unafraid, I have never been in the situation my parents were faced with my two younger brothers and me. Shortly after I was born they were unsure as young parents of the medical issues and why their new born was having seizures. I out grew that and moved on to polio at about three and a few small minor other health issues in my childhood. My youngest brother also started with seizures and almost immediately the intensity increased and I think back to how my parents must have felt at that time. My other brother contracted a bone infection and was on antibiotics and bed rest for weeks.
Watching my own children grow up with so few problems has been easy. A good friend has two small children one diagnosed with diabetes the other with health issues of another sort. A few years past on a Monday a dear friend went in for brain surgery, not something that you volunteer to do, she knew that she may not walk away from it. But in this situation options were minimal, an aneurism on the main artery in her brain could rupture at any time and she would be gone. She had her surgery and survived and is doing fine.
There was calm this morning as I went outside with our dog before leaving for class in Demorest. It was an uneasy calm, as if a storm is coming or maybe just a weather change, yet so peaceful and still. I was absorbed in the quiet, and the stillness, perhaps the storm will come we can always use more rain (sarcasm there after six inches in the past week). But perhaps the calm will stay and continue. I have a spot in the yard actually I call it a medicine circle where I often go to sit and to listen. As I sat birds were chattering about me and I was looking for answers and to what today would be for me.
Last evening I walked to my car to get my phone that I had left on the charger. At this time in the evening with little traffic in our neighborhood my front porch is a quiet resting spot as well. I sat down in the rocker and was listening. A buzzing or more humming sound caught my attention and I was face to face with a hummingbird. We stared at each other for some time till the tiny bird flew off into the expanse of pines alongside the road. Had I been a few minutes later or sooner I would have missed the hummingbird.

“Creative breakthroughs and prophetic knowing will become ordinary. Empathy and compassion will flower as a result of our deeper connection with one another. The awareness of immortality takes the pressure off living and dying. This will not happen automatically, however. We have to do our share and set our biases and prejudices aside. These are urgent matters.” Dr. Larry Dossey, Healing Words

It has been quite a few years since I first read Dr. Larry Dossey’s first book. I coming from a seminarian background, my library is filled with books on prayer and the healing power of prayer. Every day in the local paper articles and advertising for various churches allude to the power of prayer. There have been times in my own life when prayer was a significant issue. I recall my father telling the story of my brother lying in a bed at The Philadelphia Children’s hospital this was in the mid 1960’s and the head doctor Dr. C. Everett Koop (The former U.S. Surgeon General circa 1981-1989) offering a prayer over John. I recall a comment my father said years ago that Dr. Koop offered in all of his years in medicine and dealing with terminally ill children had he ever met anyone who refused prayer. Dr. Larry Dossey in his work however is looking at prayer as a thought of healing intentions. Dossey even removes religious connotation from prayer as he looks at the power of prayer, in a California study where a group focused on the individuals in a critical care heart unit and healing occurred.

“This is actually been tested in certain studies, and has achieved positive results. For example, at the University of California San Francisco Medical School, they actually tested healing intentions, which were initiated at a great distance by several individuals, for people with advanced AIDS. This was a double blind study. The people who received the healing intentions statistically did much better than people who did not. So this is not just fantasy. This is a valid phenomenon, which has been tested.” Dr. Larry Dossey

I am rambling a bit, a dear friend emailed back a few months several incidents of healing and intuition recently, while she was a pastor in Delaware. A good friend would end his emails to me sending energy south. For a number of years now I have ended Bird Droppings with a simple line, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart, each day. A very simple statement, as I sit and think imagine if we each would do this daily how profound an impact would that make on the world.

“We are made of prayers. With prayer we listen to what is important inside of us and all around us.” Navajo healer

“We are not alone. The spirits of those gone before guide our steps, our traditions, our beliefs. We are not alone. The care of those around us leads us to healing and wholeness and comfort. We are not alone.” Mohawk/Onondaga healer

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.” Chief Seattle

I sat not too many weeks back with a mountain healer talking about medicinal plants. Explaining how as I learned I seemed drawn to specific ones. Her response and she has been healing and working with folks for nearly fifty years was they will let you know when they are needed. So I close today someone needs a soothing tea I have included a recipe and taking a spare book and a plant to a friend tomorrow. If we focus on those in harm’s way if we try and alleviate suffering and harm being done to others within our own realm of being, that will spread that will encompass soon all of mankind and the world will be touched. Today make it a point to keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and a special thought for a little girl in North Georgia and a local woman in Athens who just came out of surgery and always give thanks namaste.

For all my relations.
A soothing tea:
From Listening with your heart by Dr. Wayne Peate M.D. An Iroquois healer as well as a medical doctor

8 fresh peppermint leaves
4 fresh strawberry leaves
2 cups of water
Crush leaves, place in a tea pot. Add boiling water and cover for ten minutes. Strain and serve. I am making some right now although my strawberry leaves are minimal I did have a lot of peppermint.

Some might think that curriculum is sacred

Bird Droppings July 6, 2013
Some might think that curriculum is sacred

I took a couple of days hiatus last week due to getting back to graduate school and trying to dodge raindrops doing yard work I am getting back I needed to shift gears and get back into my academic mindset and on to my writing. As I sit here thinking so often even a miniscule idea will trigger with me a significant memory. We have a standing joke at our house about the rabbits that live around our yard. My wife continually mentions the book, Watership Downs, when addressing the bold creatures. A few days ago I was heading to the front door when a young rabbit was standing at the door. The rabbit had no sales flyers or sample case so I am sure it was not a traveling sales bunny. But as I pondered and I did get photos of our door tapping rabbit I thought back to one of my earlier undergraduate experiences. I had a professor in 1969 at Eastern College in St. David’s Pennsylvania, Dr. Tony Campolo; he was a professor of sociology. He has made more of an impact on me in the years since I sat in his class and it was not because he was not a great professor for he was but it has been in reading and pondering his books since.

“While the would be spiritual oracles fail to understand about our ‘advanced’ capitalist social system is that the means have been devised to make spiritual realities somewhat unreal to us. More accurately, ways have been found in our consumer-oriented society to reduce spiritual hungers to emotions that can be gratified by purchasing the things being sold to us through the mass media.” Dr. Tony Campolo

It is not just church related spiritual realities Dr. Campolo is talking about here. It is the just of who we are that inner being getting to know where we are in the world and why. Dr. Campolo was a theologian first and often would use Greek as he taught periodically to make a point.

“Koinonia, (fellowship) supposedly can be generated simply by drinking the right beer” Dr. Tony Campolo

As I have been reading in some curriculum texts it is an interdisciplinary event as well as it is an all-encompassing lived in totality undertaking? Curriculum is not just the linear understanding of a school room and class XYZ. Seeing curriculum as the tracks that my life’s train is riding on is perhaps a metaphorical stretch at best yet in the true sense of understanding it is so.

“It is through a concern with problems as they are relating to mankind at large that it may be possible to create the type of understanding that will enable man to use with wisdom those tools which have made this century the most promising and the most perilous he has ever known.” Elliot Eisner

For many years I have embraced within myself a different sort of understanding of the world. In Native American culture all is sacred, every leave, twig, rock, animal and human being.

“It was a quote from Krishnamurti that said – he was talking about education being the understanding of the self, and he said, ‘For it is each of us the whole of existence is gathered.’” K. Kesson

For me spiritual is simply walking out the door to a brilliant sunrise or full moon as it inspires and fulfills that within me. I see curriculum in a similar manner one of sacredness of spiritual and fulfillment more so than a curriculum map on a wall next to the essential question of the day. As I read curriculum theorists it is this group who are bringing back the sacredness of learning of understanding and perhaps returning a culture lost in the midst of being found.

“The Community of truth, the grace of things, the transcendent subject, the “secret” that “sits in the middle and knows” – these images emerge, for me, from my experience of reality as sacred and of the sacred as real. Others may arrive at similar understandings from different starting points. But I believe that knowing, teaching, and learning are grounded in sacred soil and that renewing my vocation as a teacher requires cultivating a sense of the sacred.” “I think the problem we are up against is that we are crippled in this modernist culture in speaking about this dimension, and the people that have experienced it throughout history – the mystics, the sages – it seems to me they do come back and report it as a deeply meaningful and moral realm.” Ron Miller

I was first introduced to Black Elk by a Creek friend whose grandfather was a holy man as well. He said I should read the book and get a feeling for what spirituality is about. Interesting as I read I also found this is what learning is about.

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves” Black Elk

This is the outlook of Black Elk, Oglala Sioux holy man in his discussions and narrative of his visions as a child and as elder in the tribe with John Neihardt in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. This view Native Americans have of life we civilized folk have a difficult time with. Black Elk perceived that there was an all-encompassing view of all that is. In my naive beginning study of curriculum theory I see aspects of this philosophy in curriculum theory and my analogy of a track a circular journey in life of education and learning.

“One of the paradoxes of our times is that in an age pervaded by the clash of conflicting ideologies so little effort is spent in enabling students to critically examine their values and beliefs.” Elliot Eisner
We tend to lose individualism in trying to accomplish everything and to standardize and sanitize and provide “curriculum” to our schools. I became a big fan of Elliot Eisner studying at Georgia Southern University so borrowing from Eisner again.

“As David Hume suggested, one cannot logically proceed from a description of what is to a conception of what ought to be.” “If the concept of mankind were used as an organizing element in the curriculum, certain differences in school programmes might emerge.” Elliot Eisner

Curriculum is a living thing ongoing and pervasive. It is not a limiting plan of strategies as so many teachers presume. I think I have been pondering to long today and who knows maybe there are answers after all please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

For all my relations
Wa de (Skee)